Question: It is said that angels are not responsible because they do not have ‘aql (reason), that they are not pious since religions are for humans and genies, that they are beings who carry out only what they are commanded, like robots. Some others claim that angels are male. Do such statements not mean disbelieving one of the six fundamentals of îmân?
The fact that angels are neither male nor female is written in all Islamic books that deal with the tenets of belief. In earlier times some people who emulated the Christians were saying that angels were female, and they were drawing winged girl pictures. From now on, will they draw pictures of winged men?
Angels have been created from nûr (light). Iblîs and genies have been created from fire. All of them are beings who have ‘aql (reason, mind) and will. Allahu ta’âlâ put both angels and Iblîs to test. The purport of an âyah (Qur’anic verse) is as follows:
(When We said, “Fall prostrate before Âdam [before Âdam for Allah], all of the angels fell prostrate, save Iblîs. As for Iblîs, he refused it and became arrogant. So he became one of the disbelievers.) [Sûrat-ul-Baqara, 34]
If angels were like robots, Allahu ta’âlâ’s ordering them to fall prostrate would have been something meaningless (never!). If they had not been in test, Iblis would not have become a disbeliever and would not have been punished. If there had been any among angels who refused to fall prostrate, those disobedient ones would certainly have been going to be punished. Can those who do not have reason, who are like robots be held responsible and thus punished? If they were not responsible, would they have been subjected to such a test? If they were not pious, would they have obeyed the command and would Allahu ta’âlâ have praised them in such a manner? After this test, angels were bestowed with the attribute of not committing sins and being sinless. This attribute exists in prophets as well. Their being sinless does not mean that they do not have ‘aql (reason). He who does not have reason cannot be a prophet. The Qur’ân al-karîm declares that there are also prophets from angels. Jabrâîl, Mikâîl, Isrâfîl, and Azrâîl ‘alaihimus-salam are the prophets of angels. All angels are owners of knowledge. The purport of two Qur’anic verses is as follows:
(Angels said, “O our Rabb! We absolve You from all defective attributes and describe You with all perfect attributes that we have no knowledge other than what You have taught us.”) [Sûrat-ul-Baqara, 32]
(Allah, angels, and the people of knowledge who enforce justice have testified that there is no god but He.) [Sûrat-u Âl-i ‘Imrân, 18]
When our master the Prophet asked Jabrâil ‘alaihis-salâm, “Did a share fall to your lot too from my being mercy for the worlds?” he answered, “Yes, I was looking forward to my destiny with terror. But when the verses in Takwîr Sûra were revealed, my value in the sight of Allah was made manifest” (Shifâ-i Sharîf).
(This Qur’ân is a word brought by an honorable messenger [Jabrâil] who is valuable in the sight of Allah, the Owner of ‘Arsh, who is mighty, whose word is heeded, and who is trustworthy.) [Sûrat-ut-Takwîr, 19-21]
If Jabrâil ‘alaihis-salâm were not pious, would he be valuable and honorable in the sight of Allah?
Allahu ta’âlâ has charged angels with different duties. The purport of a Qur’anic verse is as follows:
(By the angels who race [to carry the souls of the Believers to Paradise and those of the disbelievers to Hell] and who direct the affairs!) [Sûrat-u Nâzi’ât, 4-5]
Allahu ta’âlâ swears on angels who direct the affairs in order to emphasize their superiority. If angels were beings who not have reason, like robots, would Allahu ta’âlâ have chosen from them messengers and directors? The purport of a verse is as follows:
(Allah chooses messengers from angels as well as from human beings.) [Sûrat-ul-Hajj, 75]
Saying that angels are devoid of reason and that they are like robots is another way of denying their existence. Belief in angels is one of the six fundamentals of îmân. The purport of a verse is as follows:
(He who disbelieves in Allah, His angels, His books, His prophets, and the Day of Judgement has gone far astray.) [Sûrat-un-Nisâ’, 136]
Angels are genderless. When the polytheists asserted that angels were female and that they were the daughters of Allah, Allahu ta’âlâ revealed the following:
([O polytheists!] Has your Rabb allotted you sons and taken for Himself daughters from among angels? Verily, you utter a saying the consequence of which is very grievous.) [Sûrat-ul-Isrâ’, 40]
(Ask the polytheists: Do daughters belong to your Rabb and sons to them? Did We create the angels as females before their eyes? They are definitely telling a lie.) [Sûrat-us-Saffât, 149-151]
(Those who do not believe in the Hereafter name the angels with female names.) [Sûrat-un-Najm, 27]
Angels came to the aid in the Battles of Badr and Hunain. The purport of two verses is as follows:
(Then [at Badr] you were saying to the Believers, “Is it not sufficient that your Rabb helps you by sending down three thousand angels.”) [Sûrat-u Âl-i ‘Imrân, 124]
(You were seeking aid from your Rabb for victory. He responded to you by saying, “I am helping you with a thousand angels, following one another in succession.”) [Sûrat-ul-Anfâl, 9]
They participate in a battle and fight against the enemy. How can one characterize them as being devoid of reason and as unconscious robots?
It was stated that the helpers of our master Rasûlullah were the angels:
(His friends and helpers are Allah, Jabrâil, and the pious Believers. Furthermore, the angels are his helpers.) [Sûrat-ut-Tahrîm, 4]
Also, it was declared in hadîth-i sharîfs that angels are beings with reason. As a matter of fact, the following three hadîth-i sharîfs purport:
(Angels of compassion do not enter a residence where there is a living being’s picture, a dog, or a junub person.) [Nasâî]
(Let him who has eaten onion or garlic not come to our mosque. The reason is that what causes humans discomfort causes angels discomfort, too.) [Tabarânî]
(Do not remain naked! Feel ashamed of the Angels of Haphaza, who leave you only during sexual intercourse or when you are in the restroom, and be respectful to them.) [Tirmudhî]
This means to say that angels can come to houses for mercy and can recognize the junub person if there is. These are not simple matters. They can be bothered by the unpleasant smells that bother humans, and it is not appropriate to remain naked near them. If they are like robots, why are they bothered by junub person or bad smells? Why should one feel ashamed of them and why are we ordered to be respectful to them? The purport of a hadîth-i sharîf is follows:
(The angel on one’s right is the commander of the one on one’s left. He writes ten thawâbs when a born servant does a good deed. When the born servant does a bad deed, the angel on one’s right commands the one on the left to wait. He then waits for six hours. If the born servant makes repentance, he does not write anything at all. If he does not make repentance, he writes a single sin.) [Tabarânî, Bayhaqî]
The purport of a Qur’anic verse is as follows:
(Do they [polytheists] think that We do not hear what they conceal in their hearts and their whispers? Yes, We do, and Our messengers [angels] near them record.) [Sûrat-uz-Zukhruf, 80]
It would be utterly fallacious and ridiculous to say that the angels who assess and write down our deeds are robot-like beings devoid of reason, despite these scriptural proofs demonstrating that they have knowledge and reason.